Priory Country Park is a former gravel pits located on the South East edge of Bedford, adjacent to the River Great Ouse. Find us at Barkers Lane off A428, or in Priory Business Park off A421 Bedford bypass. Admission is Free with access to the Visitor centre and 2 hides, one overlooking the main lake and one on the Finger lakes. You will find Winter wildfowl, passage terns and waders, and Water Rail all year.
Had some time off work these last couple of weeks and have spent most of it in the park volunteering. It's great to get out in the open for a few days and the rangers have been kind enough to have me along on a few tasks. In the Sheep Pen we cleared a load of brash created by the Shuttleworth students who had done some coppicing in there. Yesterday we created another big pile of brash when Danny took down a large Willow and an Ash in the same area.
Between times we revisited the plantation where the volunteer group did some work for the December task. Another large Willow came down. It was beginning to show signs of rot and some of the larger limbs posed a danger to the public should they have come down. It has also opened up a large glade in this plantation allowing some of the smaller trees to prosper with the added light.
Of course these Willows will regenerate from the stumps that remain so no need to worry that all the trees are being cut down. You will notice that most of the large Willows around the park are multi stemmed, showing that they have been coppiced in the past. This is a species that responds particularly well to being cut back and, especially in a wet year like this one, regrowth rates can be amazing. In fact Willow is a species that is quite difficult to kill off, the smaller coppiced stems will regularly grow if pushed into the ground. The Willow spilings used for erosion control around the edge of the lakes invariably begin to grow after they have been installed. This is, of course, the idea as the roots will bind the earth together, preventing it washing away. The structure above ground is also stronger and prevents the waves washing away the bank.
All the recent rain has led to increased levels of the lakes and river around the park and lots of surface water everywhere. With more rain to come in the next few days I wouldn't be surprised to see significant flooding around the park so if you are visiting please bring suitable footwear. Wellies are the order of the day!
My next guided bird walk is Sunday the 30th of December at 9am, meet outside the visitor centre. Will we get another crack at the long staying Slavonian Grebe. This bird is now the long stay record holder for this species in the park. Still mostly seen in the north east corner of the main lake it can be very mobile so keep a look out for it.
Here are some pics of the Slavonian Grebe from yesterday. First up a distant shot in a small patch of water that was reflecting the early light from the rising sun. This is followed by a couple of closer shots as it worked its way along the north edge of the main lake near the dipping platform.